MANILA, Philippines – With just a few days left before the implementation of an on-site work order, business process outsourcing (BPO) workers asked Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to intervene – the latest in employees’ pleas to suspend the order.
The Inter-Call Center Association of Workers (ICCAW) sought Bello’s involvement, saying that the BPO workers, whose offices are located in economic zones and freeports, were not consulted.
The workers are set to return to their offices on April 1, based on a Fiscal Incentives Review Board (FIRB) resolution issued March 9.
“The RTO (return-to-work order) is a recipe for disaster. It is an April Fools’ prank that endangers occupational safety and health, and work-life balance,” said BPO employee Bryan Nadua, also a member of ICCAW, in a statement.
“Dapat balik trabahong ligtas para sa BPO workers (We need to bring back a safe environment for BPO workers). Mandating the return to office of 1.4 million IT and BPO workers on the sole basis of economic and tax reasons disregards the issue of health and safety of employees,” he added.
BPO workers have proposed an alternative to the order, with 50% to 75% office capacity and the implementation of a reduced workweek while proceeding with the work-from-home (WFH) setup for the rest of the week.
The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) is saying its hands are tied.
On Tuesday, March 29, PEZA reiterated that the law needs to be amended to allow BPOs to implement hybrid work arrangements.
“At present, PEZA cannot change the ratio unless the laws will be amended to incorporate the adaptation of the hybrid schemes. In the future, we hope to follow the practice of India and the other countries and provide a specific ratio on WFH and on-site work arrangements,” said PEZA Director General Charito Plaza.
There are no movements in Congress either, since lawmakers are currently on break. Sessions will resume on May 23.
“PEZA supports the hybrid work scheme as it’s been proven effective in the last three years of the pandemic. What we can do is recommend this for the next administration to address. As of now, we have to abide by the existing laws and the decision of the [FIRB] and help to put back the economy to normal,” Plaza said.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III earlier said companies may opt to implement work-from-home arrangements but their tax incentives would be revoked.
Some workers have contemplated leaving the industry if the order pushes through, according to another BPO group, the Alliance of Call Center Workers. – Eirenne Lumasang/Rappler.com
Eirenne Lumasang is a Rappler intern. She is a communication student from the Ateneo de Manila University.